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Op-ed

Sex Workers and Privacy: Thoughts on GirlsDoPorn

Sex workers have a complicated relationship with privacy. This was especially highlighted in the GirlsDoporn fraud case that has not been emphasized in the media as of late.

Abroad, in places like the Netherlands where prostitution is legal, it’s expected that sex workers may have more rights or legal protections. Yet, because sex work is legal, illegal sex workers are on the rise in Amsterdam due to sex workers not wanting to register with the government and clients not wanting to reach out to the government to validate the sex worker is registered with the government legally. 

Most western countries such as America have criminalized sex work, but online sex work is a whole different entity.

Historically, anti-sex work legislation has been focused on closing down sex work establishments such as brothels and forcing sex workers to head on the street instead. President Trump recently signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA-FOSTA), an example of two forms of legislation that has meant to criminalize sex workers but instead has forced sex workers and their support groups and resources into an unsafe situation.

Below is a picture advertising an Internet cafe, and a less safe or less nice area for Internet access that sex workers only use. It emphasizes the struggles that sex workers go through due to the SESTA-FOSTA to work, to be safe, and to be protected with access to resources.

Source:Endgaget

FOSTA-SESTA is incredibly important in the case of Girls Do Porn because owners of the website Michael Pratt and Matthew Wolfe, and recruiter Andre Garcia are accused of breaking safety and consent boundaries for workers, just like this legislation has.

There are limited regulations for sex workers who perform online. Most producers of porn make a safe environment for workers with consent regulations, professional behavior on set, and are mindful of labor laws and care sex workers may need for their job. Girls Do Porn has been accused of not following these guidelines for an ethical workplace.

So, here’s the details. In June, 22 women sued amateur porn site Girls Do Porn of fraud, misrepresentation, and coercion. The women, aged 18 to 22, believed that they were creating content that would not be exposed to a wide audience, but to their horror was put on a website viewable for anyone.

These women also claim that they felt coerced to have sex, unable to stop because while it may have been painful or rough, they didn’t feel they would be able to safely leave and were not going to be paid.

It isn’t even the fact that the women were told that their videos would be available on DVD in Australia and New Zealand and found themselves published on a website. It’s the fact that digital content, especially porn, can be stolen and uploaded onto other websites for free and performers have no control over who views their content and lose money over who is accessing their performances.

In a digital age such as now, with porn being accessible on the Internet, privacy and fair treatment of those who are sex workers is particularly lax.

Sex workers who used certain sites like Backpage which was recently shut down, emphasizes this. Sites like Backpage were used by sex workers who didn’t want to go through pimps or companies for sex work and were independent individuals. Shutting down a site like Backpage may have shut down some illegal trafficking, but overall, it has forced sex workers in an uncomfortable position, with many workers getting involved in pimps, dungeons, and other entities that take a substantive cut of what the worker makes.  Below, Twitter users comment on their experience with sex work.

At the end of the day, it comes down to this. If people are willingly going to become sex workers, others are going to be clients of them. We need to have a discussion on consensual and safe sex for adults, instead of demonizing sex and criminalizing those who are trying to make a living. Perhaps, then, we can move towards understanding trafficking and how to combat it better.

Picture Source: John Rocha/Pexels

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Mia Boccher
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I want to share my words and take in other's.

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